Although free educational materials, including free textbooks, have helped students save millions of dollars, may they also help them do better academically?
College students who receive free course materials at the start of a class perform noticeably better academically than those who do not, according to landmark research conducted at the University of Georgia.
The Georgia study analyzed the final grades of students enrolled in eight significant college courses between 2010 and 2016 and was released this week. Each of these classes was instructed by a professor who, at some time over those six years, moved from using a commercial textbook that cost $100 or more to a digital free textbook or open educational resource.
The study discovered that switching to OER boosted the amount of A and A-minus marks students obtained by 5.50 percent and 7.73 percent, respectively. This was done by comparing the before and after outcomes of these eight courses. The percentage of students who withdrew or had D or F grades, or what is referred to as the DFW rate, decreased by 2.68 percent.
The survey involved 21,822 students in total, 11,681 of whom used paid textbooks, and 10,141 of whom used free textbooks. The eight courses covered topics in biology, history, psychology, and sociology, and they made use of OpenStax’s OER textbooks, a Rice University nonprofit project.
Few studies have concentrated on the effect OER can have on student learning, despite the fact that many have examined shifting faculty opinions of OER and the cost savings it may provide.
The study is the “first of its type” to scale up the potential effects of OER on students from various socioeconomic backgrounds.
All of the students got the materials on the first day of class, which is one of the key reasons OER enhanced student outcomes. When given commercial textbooks, students occasionally, if not usually, delayed buying them.
OER and inclusive-access programs are frequently supplied online with the opportunity to upgrade to a print textbook for an additional fee. Students can choose to print their own materials at home or download them to read offline thanks to OER’s open licensing. Because of this versatility, the open nature of OER is crucial.
The Georgia study, while extensive in scope, has certain limitations because it was only carried out at one institution. However, the study’s findings were encouraging.
These are encouraging findings, but as is nearly often the case, additional in-depth investigation is required to fully understand these beneficial outcomes.
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